What Are Tornadoes?
Tornadoes are exceedingly violent and dangerous funnel clouds that have rotation and high wind speeds that come in contact with the earth. Tornadoes typically have speeds between 65 and 250 mph. Tornadoes usually take the shape of a funnel cloud and become a tornado when they touch the earth. The winds are so violent that they can uproot trees, destroy homes and office buildings and crumple cars. They can stay on the ground for a few seconds to many minutes and can travel miles, cutting large swaths of destruction in their path.
What Causes Tornadoes?
Tornadoes usually appear along the line of a cold front as it collides with warm, moist air east of it. This usually brings about instability and wind shear. Along "Tornado Alley" in the Central Plains of the United States, tornadoes often form along a "dry line" where the separation occurs between dry, hot air in the west and moist, warm air in the east. This occurs most often during spring.
Tornadoes have many weapons in their arsenal. The wind is a tornado's primary weapon, but tornadoes can also do damage with lightning, hail and flash floods. Depending on the strength of a tornado, it can cause very little damage to widespread destruction.
The Enhanced Fujita Scale
Tornadoes are ranked according to their destructiveness with the Enhanced Fujita Scale. Scientists rank tornadoes from weakest, an EF0, to the most destructive, an EF5.
An EF0 tornado is 65-85 mph and may tear branches off trees and shingles from homes. It may uproot shallow trees. An EF1 tornado is 86–110 mph and may turn over mobile homes, tear up roofs from homes and break windows and damage a home's exterior. An EF2 tornado is 111–135 mph and will destroy mobile homes. It will rip roofs from houses and damage their foundations. It will rip out well-rooted trees and move cars. An EF3 tornado is 136–165 mph and will destroy stories on homes. It'll toss heavy cars and overturn freight trains. It'll pick up some homes and move them and it'll do serious damage to large structures like office buildings and malls. An EF4 tornado is 166–200 mph. These tornadoes level entire homes. An EF5 tornado is one above 200 mph. These tornadoes do remarkable damage, hurling cars like missiles and leveling homes and large buildings. Office buildings are severely damaged or even destroyed. High-rise building are severely damaged with structural deformation.